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US to ban travel from South Africa, 7 other African nations due to COVID-19 variant

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US to ban travel from South Africa, 7 other African nations due to COVID-19 variant

BRUSSELS (AP) — The White House said Friday the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday due to a new COVID-19 variant.

A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant, the world’s most prevalent. The panel said early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection.

In response, the United States joined the European Union and several other countries in instituting travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa.

The White House did not give details on the new travel ban except to say the restrictions will not apply to returning U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who will continue to be required to test negative before their travel.

Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa was better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

“We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.

There was no immediate indication whether the variant causes a more severe disease. As with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, South African experts said. The WHO panel drew from the Greek alphabet in naming the variant omicron, as it has done with earlier, major variants of the virus.

Even though some of the genetic changes appear worrisome, it was unclear if the new variant would pose a significant public health threat. Some previous variants, like the beta variant, initially concerned scientists but did not spread very far.

The 27-nation European Union imposed a temporary ban on air travel from southern Africa, and stocks tumbled in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 index was down 2.3%, on pace for its worst day since February. The price of oil plunged nearly 12%.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. The member nations of the EU have experienced a massive spike in cases recently.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights will have to “be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

She insisted on extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.”

Belgium became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant.

“It’s a suspicious variant,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said. “We don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant.”

It has yet to be detected in the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert. Abroad, the variant “seems to be spreading at a reasonably rapid rate,” he told CNN. And although it may be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, “we don’t know that for sure right now.”

Showing how complicated the spread of a variant can be, the Belgian case involved a traveler who returned to Belgium from Egypt on Nov. 11 but did not become sick with mild symptoms until Monday, according to professor Marc Van Ranst, who works for the scientific group overseeing the Belgian government’s COVID-19 response.

Israel, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it also detected its first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were placed in isolation. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers’ exact vaccination status.

After a 10-hour overnight trip, passengers aboard KLM Flight 598 from Capetown, South Africa, to Amsterdam were held on the edge of the runway Friday morning at Schiphol airport for four hours pending special testing. Passengers aboard a flight from Johannesburg were also being isolated and tested.

“It’s ridiculous. If we didn’t catch the dreaded bugger before, we’re catching it now,” said passenger Francesca de’ Medici, a Rome-based art consultant who was on the flight.

Some experts said the variant’s emergence illustrated how rich countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Fewer than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. Those conditions can speed up the spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.

“This is one of the consequences of the inequity in vaccine rollouts and why the grabbing of surplus vaccines by richer countries will inevitably rebound on us all at some point,” said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Britain’s University of Southampton.

The new variant added to investor anxiety that months of progress containing COVID-19 could be reversed.
“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of foreign exchange broker Oanda.

In a sign of how concerned Wall Street has become, the market’s so-called fear gauge known as the VIX jumped 48% to a reading of 26.91. That’s the highest reading for the volatility index since January before vaccines were widely distributed.

Speaking before the EU announcement, Dr. Michael Ryan, head of emergencies at the WHO, warned against “knee-jerk responses.”

“We’ve seen in the past, the minute there’s any kind of mention of any kind of variation and everyone is closing borders and restricting travel,” Ryan said. “It’s really important that we remain open and stay focused.”

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed and strongly discouraged any travel bans on countries that reported the new variant. It said past experience shows that such travel bans have “not yielded a meaningful outcome.”

Yet the U.S. announced restrictions on visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, hours after governments took similar steps.

The U.K. banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries at noon on Friday and announced that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.

The Japanese government announced that Japanese nationals traveling from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Lesotho will have to quarantine at government-dedicated accommodations for 10 days and take COVID-19 tests on the third, sixth, and tenth days. Japan has not yet opened up to foreign nationals.

Fauci said U.S. public health officials were talking Friday with South African colleagues. “We want to find out scientist to scientist exactly what is going on.”

The WHO’s technical working group says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in the past week in Europe, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise.

The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see an additional 700,000 deaths by the spring.

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Get Cooking: Meat with “dem bones”

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Get Cooking: Meat with “dem bones”

In the Bible, in the 37th chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, the Lord grants a vision to the prophet as He takes Ezekiel to the Valley of the Dry Bones. God tells Ezekiel how, on the Last Day, he will re-vivify the dry bones, all scattered about pell-mell: He will “breathe life into them” and “attach tendons to them” and “make flesh come onto them.”

This passage in the Scriptures occasioned the anatomy lesson of the great Black spiritual “Dem Bones,” written in the early 1900s, where we learn how all those bones are connected, “the knee bone connected to the thigh bone; the thigh bone connected to the hip bone,” and so on.

Cooks, now hear the word of the Lord.

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Two new Denver bars that’ll feel like vacation in January

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Two new Denver bars that’ll feel like vacation in January

You deserve a vacation this month. But if you’re like me, you aren’t taking one (because the holidays were expensive, because omicron still surges, and because there just isn’t any time for that).

Enter two new Denver destinations where you can at least feel transported for a night. One will take you to Paris by way of Montreal, and the other will give you a taste of Oaxaca and Mexico City all in one bite.

Cantina Loca

This is the Denver tasting room and bar for chef Dana Rodriguez’s own Doña Loca spirits brand. Rodriguez launched her mezcal and tequila line in 2021 and has been planning this cantina extension of it — her first solo restaurant project — all along.

Hi-Rez Photography, Provided by Cantina Loca

Cocktails from Cantina Loca, which specializes in mezcal and tequila drinks made with Doña Loca house spirits.

“This concept is my dream,” Rodriguez said in a release. “It’s the ultimate representation of Mexican culture through food and drink, in an atmosphere that feels like a true Mexico City cantina.”

Why make the trip: If you’ve been to Rodriguez’s restaurants Work & Class and Super Mega Bien (or even if you haven’t) you’ll want to check out this latest addition to the family. It’s a casual cantina with an artistic streak. Local builders FinArt furnished the space on the ground floor of a LoHi extended stay, and muralist John Rumtum warmed up the concrete walls and brickwork with a loving ode to the agave plant.

Order like a local: There are plenty of agave spirit-based cocktails to order (see requisite palomas and margaritas), but you should also peruse the menu of aguas benditas so you can sip the house brand mezcal on its own, in three distinct styles, and also try other traditional Mexican spirits, such as raicilla (pronounced rai-see-yuh) and sotol (pronounced so-toll). See also tacos and snacks such as tempura cactus, or nopales fritos, and stuffed corn sopes, or picaditas vegetarianas.

Exchange rate: Snacks will set you back $7-$13, tacos cost $3.75-$5 and big plates such as pollo adobado and lamb mixiote are priced at $15-$26. Expect to pay $11-$14 for cocktails, and $9-$30 for sipping mezcal. Beers are also available for $5-$8, and four N/A drinks including horchata and chicha morada cost $6.

Travel plan: The cantina is open Sunday-Thursday from 4-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4-11 p.m. It’s closed on Monday and Tuesday, at 2880 Zuni St., and cantinaloca.com.

1642597461 332 Two new Denver bars thatll feel like vacation in January

Provided by Au Feu Brasserie

Au Feu Brasserie is a new French wine bar and restaurant in Wash Park. You’ll find French bottles and cocktails on the menu alongside a strong selection of Cognac, Armagnac and Eau de Vie.

Au Feu Brasserie

Meet a former RiNo food hall stall that’s all grown up and sophisticated in Washington Park. This French-inspired restaurant started out at Zeppelin Station in 2018 but recently advanced to a brick-and-mortar space next door to Uncle ramen on Pennsylvania Street. And the two businesses make for great date-night neighbors, depending on your mood. At the brasserie, owners Jared and Amanda Leonard were inspired by Montreal’s food scene.

“We ate our way through Montreal while researching the Au Feu concept and fell in love with the French culture of the city,” Jared Leonard said in a release. “We were particularly inspired by restaurants like Joe Beef and Au Pied du Cochon.”

Why make the trip: It’s hard to recognize this space that was once occupied by a burger shop. Now it’s all velvet seating and art deco decor, with the air of a Parisian sitting room. Pair that with a barbecue master’s expert food, which includes a mix of French and Canadian influences (see boeuf bourguignon and house poutine), and you’ll start to see why the Leonards are calling it a “casually indulgent” after-work escape.

Au Feu Brasserie is a new ...

Provided by Au Feu Brasserie

Au Feu Brasserie is a new wine bar and restaurant in Wash Park. You’ll find Montreal-inspired French food, such as this short rib bourguignon.

Order like a local: Leonard tapped Dutch sommelier Jeroen Erens to pick the 65-bottle, all-French wine list, so you’ll want to get his input for your drink order. Aside from wine, there’s a great selection of pre-prohibition European-inspired cocktails (Prince of Wales, Fleur de Lis), as well as cognac, armagnac and eau de vie.

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Former CSU Rams football commits search for new opportunities after Jay Norvell pulls scholarship offers

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Former CSU Rams football commits search for new opportunities after Jay Norvell pulls scholarship offers

Bryce Johnson went to Colorado State last summer on a football recruiting visit and left Fort Collins with a dream scholarship offer to play for the Rams.

“It was Division I football and a full ride in your home state,” said Johnson, a star two-way player for Lutheran High School, and a finalist for The Denver Post’s annual Gold Helmet Award. “That’s a huge opportunity. I jumped on that right away.”

Johnson’s dream turned into a nightmare six months later.

That’s because Johnson’s commitment became null and void in December after the program hired former Nevada coach Jay Norvell to replace fired Steve Addazio as head coach. Johnson is not alone. Norvell’s re-evaluation of the Rams’ 2022 recruiting class led to offers being pulled for a handful of local commits seen as improper fits.

Among those taking their spots: previous Nevada commits and transfers.

“Their staff came in with an entirely different scheme on both sides of the ball. They had a lot of changes that needed to be made. So, they ended up pulling my scholarship to use in the JUCO and transfer portal,” said Johnson, who is now considering New Mexico State, South Dakota State and others. “They talked to me about blue-shirting and getting me in the 2023 class. But they said that wasn’t approved by their compliance.”

Norvell didn’t hide from that uncomfortable truth when speaking to reporters last month during the early signing period.

“It’s not a thing that people like to hear,” Norvell said back on Dec. 15. “That they had a scholarship, they had committed (to CSU) and you’ve got a new coaching staff and you kind of have to start all over again. It’s unfortunate. But it is the reality.”

Where do those former commits go from here? CSU’s 2022 sendoffs are scrambling for new opportunities. Highlands Ranch tight end Jade Arroyo — with 107 career receptions for 1,515 yards and 16 touchdowns — pledged to the Rams back in July. He’s now considering multiple Ivy League programs.

“It’s kind of hard right now. Most schools have already filled up their class for this year,” Arroyo said. “Especially with COVID, there are limited scholarships. I’m just talking to schools with coaches (direct messaging) me on Twitter. I’m just trying to build relationships at the moment.”

The list goes on: Arapahoe outside linebacker Jareb Ramos is also no longer committed to the Rams but recently picked up a scholarship offer from Penn. Addazio’s staff stayed close to home offering scholarships at Fort Collins High School to wide receiver Dorion McGarity and safety Dontay Johnson. Neither player signed with the Rams and their college destinations are still undetermined.

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